ACC: Florida State, Maryland and N.C. State were tied for first in the Atlantic with one loss apiece. All three lost. FSU & Maryland lost to Coastal Division opponents, North Carolina and Miami respectively, but N.C. State's loss to Clemson threatens to open up more chaos. The Tigers have crept to within one game in the loss column. They have head-to-head wins over the Terps and Wolfpack. And they play Florida State next week. Dabo Swinney's team isn't dead yet. On the opposite side of the division, Virginia Tech stayed in command with that hair-raising win over Georgia Tech on Thursday night, but UNC & Miami are still breathing after their big wins. They each trail the Hokies by two games, but still get a head-on crack at the leader.
Big Ten: The big news in this conference was Joe Paterno getting 400th career win as Penn State rallied from 21-0 down to beat Northwestern. The win keeps the Lions in the hunt for a New Year's Day bowl bid if any of the leading four should fall. Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State all took care of business Saturday--though the Badgers took a half to wake up in Purdue and the Hawkeyes went down to the wire in Indiana. Ohio State was off.
SEC: The Eastern Division continued its mediocre play, as South Carolina was pounded at home by Arkansas 41-20. They'll play Florida next week for the division title. LSU's win over Alabama makes it awfully tough for anyone to catch Auburn. The Tigers and Hogs are the only teams within a game of Cam Newton's crew and each have lost head-to-head. Whatever happens in the national championship race, Auburn fans can realistically book those tickets to Atlanta. The other consequence of Alabama's loss is that the race for an at-large bid to the BCS here is now wide-open, with 'Bama, LSU and Arkansas all having a shot.
Big 12: Oklahoma fell to Texas A&M yesterday and crossstate rival Oklahoma State seized first place in the South with a big win over Baylor. The Sooners trail OSU by a game and still have Baylor ahead of them, but they do control their own destiny to meet their rivals in Stillwater for the division title on Thanksgiving weekend. Nebraska had to go to overtime to survive Iowa State, while Missouri couldn't escape Texas Tech. It's all over but the shouting in the North.
Pac-10: Stanford stepped up and thumped Arizona last night, a circumstance that all but wraps up at least a Rose Bowl bid for Oregon. The Ducks are a game up on Stanford, whom they've beaten head-to-head and plus-two on everyone else. Should Oregon win out and play for the national title, Stanford now has to be the lead candidate for a replacement team in Pasadena if they can close out an 11-1 season .
Elsewhere: Syracuse lost to Louisville and fell two games back of Pitt in the Big East, giving the Panthers a clear path to the conference's automatic BCS slot. TCU's win moved them closer to another Mountain West title, although dark horse San Diego State is still lurking with one conference loss. And then there's Boise, who keeps rolling to another major bowl bid and hoping for more.
Here's how the Notebook projects the major bowl matchups. The system for setting up automatically put the champs of the five biggest conferences in certain bowls. The ACC goes Orange, the SEC goes to the Sugar, Big 12 to the Fiesta with the Rose getting the Big Ten and Pac-10. Of course if any of these teams are ranked 1-2 in the final BCS standings they are removed to play each other for the national championship. Selection then begins to fill the empty spots, with the Big East champ being guaranteed a slot, with four at-large bids, chosen from the midmajors and conference runner-ups. The bowl that lost the #1 team gets the first choice, with the home of the #2 team picking second. The remaining teams are selected by Sugar, Orange and Fiesta. That order rotates each year and there's qualifying criteria for at-large consideration that space here doesn't permit. If it becomes relevant, we'll take it up in future posts.
BCS National Championship: Oregon vs. TCU: Auburn loses to Alabama and opens the door for a midmajor. The BCS standings will be out tonight, but I have to think the Horned Frogs impressed a lot of people.
Rose: Stanford vs. Wisconsin
Sugar: Auburn vs. Boise State
Orange: Virginia Tech vs. Alabama
Fiesta: Nebraska vs. Pitt
Image from deseretnews.com
Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football and game analysis in the NFL. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.